England's senior players take control before second Test against South Africa

South Africa v England – second Test
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein Date: Saturday, 16 June Kick-off: 16:05 BST
Coverage: Live radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Sport website and mobile app.

England’s senior players have taken the lead this week in a bid to rescue the side’s poor run of form, said scrum-half Ben Youngs.

Last weekend’s 42-39 defeat by South Africa in Johannesburg was England’s fourth Test defeat in a row.

“The senior players have taken a fair amount of ownership,” Youngs told BBC Sport.

“We’ve been making sure everyone is aware of what needs to be done.”

Number eight Nathan Hughes added: “The meetings have been run by the players themselves and it’s good to see the players taking ownership.”

England face the Springboks in the second Test in Bloemfontein on Saturday with the three-Test series on the line.

Head coach Eddie Jones will announce his starting XV on Thursday at 11:30 BST.

‘Defence is costing us’

England’s results in 2018 have been described as a “horror show” by World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward.

The loss in Johannesburg came after a fifth-placed finish in the Six Nations and a chastening defeat at the hands of the Barbarians in a non-cap match at the end of May.

Defence and discipline are two areas of focus according to Youngs, with England conceding 12 penalties at Ellis Park and shipping five tries.

“Defence has cost us a few times over the last five games and we’ve got to make sure we address that quickly,” he added.

“Discipline has [also] been bit of a theme the past few games and it has certainly put us under more pressure than we needed to.”

“We talked about it and reviewed it heavily and we’ve got to make sure in training driving we’re those standards and anything 50/50 in training we’ve got to leave.

“The individuals are fully aware that at the weekend some of those penalties were highly avoidable and unnecessary. If we want to win [on Saturday], we have to cut that down by at least half.”

Ben Youngs in action for England against South Africa<!–

‘No rivalry with Faf’

Youngs, 26, has played down his own head-to-head rivalry with Springbok pivot Faf de Klerk, who ran amok as the hosts came from 24-3 down in the series opener.

“It’s not me versus Faf [de Klerk], it’s about what needs to be done for the team,” he said.

“We have no special plans for him. It will be no different from the week before – we just didn’t execute it.

“We’ve put a big emphasis on making sure we’re setting early in defence and cutting down the time and space that we gave him on the weekend. You just can’t afford to do that.”

Despite the miserable run, Youngs insists the mood in the camp is upbeat and his side are poised to level the series on Saturday.

“We’re looking forward to the weekend and we’re desperate to get the win. The mood in the camp is absolutely brilliant – it’s just desperation now to get the result we’re all craving.

“We still feel we can win the series 2-1 and that’s exactly what we want to do.”

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